Poland now has some of the strongest protections for preborn children in the Western world. In May of this year, abortion on disability grounds was banned, adding to previous restrictions introduced in 1993.
The move, supported by Poland's Constitutional Court, caused an international furore with protesters being bussed in to support the country's abortion advocates who desecrated churches and disrupted Masses. Pro-life groups pointed out that the move would protect babies with Down Syndrome, who are being aborted at a rate of 90% if the condition is diagnosed in the wpmb, while the government was also committed to providing care for families where baby had been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition before birth.
While the global media focused on the pro-abortion protests, some 830,000 Poles signed a petition supporting a ban on abortion in cases where the unborn child has a disability or severe illness. Polling in the country also show a majority opposed to abortion-on-demand.
However, global pressure on Poland because of its pro-life and pro-family stance persists, especially from the European Union who have repeatedly sought to interfere in the right of the Polish Parliament and her people to decide their own laws and values. While the country has a staunch ally in Hungary, the EU countries are openly hostile, including Irish representatives.
On November 11th, the European Parliament called on the government in Warsaw to remove protections from unborn babies and lift the abortion ban. A separate body, the Council of Europe through the European Court of Human Rights, had also sought to pressure Poland to make abortion widely available.
Several MEPs made reference to a tragic case where a Polish woman died of sepsis 22 weeks into her pregnancy. While full details of the case have yet to emerge, abortion campaigners - echoing the actions of their counterparts in Ireland in relation to the death of Savita Halappanavar - have seized on the death to demand a change in the law.
Poland's health ministry has clarified that the legal regulations governing medical care allow necessary medical interventions in cases where a mother's life is in danger, but that clarity is in danger of being drowned out by a media and political clamour. In Ireland, three legal inquiries found that Savita's death was caused by mismanagement of sepsis, but that truth was swept aside in a carefully choreographed campaign which blamed her death on Ireland's abortion laws.
The EU has also clashed with the government after the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, in an October ruling, found that some sections of EU treaties were incompatible with Poland’s own constitution, as they claim primacy of EU law over that of the legal systems of individual member states.
In response, the EU Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Commission to initiate legal proceedings against Poland, and to refuse all monies from the Covid recovery fund.
Interestingly, three other Central European countries - Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – have joined Poland to launch a “pro-family coalition” at local, national and EU level. Those allies may be needed in the months ahead.
This piece was first published in Alive.